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Governor wants new focus on energy

LANSING – Gov. Rick Snyder, in his State of the State address Tuesday, reaffirmed his support for increasing natural gas and renewables and announced a new Agency for Energy. Before that, lawmakers who serve on energy committees elaborated a bit further on how those plans may be carried out at a wind energy forum in Lansing on Tuesday.

A continued push toward wind energy from senators and representatives in southwestern and eastern Michigan remains relevant in Huron County, home to 328 of the state’s 881 wind turbines and a place where utilities have drawn plans for at least 175 more for 2015 and beyond.

Sens. John Proos and Hoon-Yung Hopgood, along with Rep. Bill LaVoy, were among panelists at American Wind Energy Association’s state wind forum on Tuesday.

Proos, R-St. Joseph, said the state will likely see a rewrite of its entire energy policy, including Public Act 295 of 2008, which requires utilities to get 10 percent of its energy from renewable sources like wind by the end of the year.

Driving a rewrite is the 10 percent requirement, and utilities having met it, said Rep. Bill LaVoy. DTE Energy reported in August that a wind park planned for Huron County would put the utility at 10.2 percent of the goal, while Consumers Energy says it met the goal with the November completion of its Cross Winds Park in Tuscola County.

A package of bills would likely set the tone for the next six to eight years for new requirements of utilities, he said.

LaVoy, a Monroe Democrat who represents Monroe and part of Wayne County, where turbine supplier Ventower Industries is headquartered, said wind energy is too big of an issue to become politicized.

Proos, whose district of Berrien, Cass and St. Joseph counties do not have wind turbines, said siting of wind turbines is a big issue that local municipalities are “going to continue to cry foul on.”

“You ought to troop around the landowners who are benefitting from it,” Proos told a room of about 100 representatives from utilities and others in the industry. “All signs point to turbine growth and siting.”

“I think good things are going to happen for those that have an interest in this room,” said Sen. Hoon-Yung Hopgood, a Wayne County Democrat.

Gov. Snyder, in his State of the State address, reaffirmed support for increasing use of natural gas and renewables and said he would deliver a special message on energy in March.

After Snyder spoke to Michigan, President Barack Obama, in his State of the Union address, made a somewhat false claim that “America is No. 1 in wind power,” according to Politico, a Virginia-based newspaper that regularly checks facts related to politics. Citing other reputable media sources, Politico said China actually leads in total installed megawatt capacity.